The study of filmand cognition has been pursued along three distinct conceptual lines, eachcorresponding to a different sense of the term cognition. These can besubdivided as skills, states and knowledge.2.
6.1.1 SkillsIt signifies a setof cognitive skills that would be necessary or enhancing to the effectiveviewing of film. Salomon’s method of conceptualizing film viewing skills, then,was to define the psycho-logically pertinent elements of film making techniquesand to infer a specific cognitive skill associated with the reception of thoseelements. The problem remains whether this identification of cognitivefunctions (things that cognition accomplishes) is a valid way to identifycognitive skills (what cognition is).Piaget (1952)offers a more complex, and at the same time more parsimonious, model ofcognition. The central construct of Piaget’s model is the schema, the cognitiveunit of understanding that is formed through inter-action with the environment.
Through a dynamic balance of assimilation and accommodation schema are formed,generalized, and differentiated, becoming equilibrated structures that arecapable of repeated functioning even as they are continually open to change andreformation. Piaget’s model is parsimonious because it poses a single dynamicstructure (the schema) applicable to all varieties of cognitive experience. Ithas been understood that the viewer’s response to film, in any model ofcognition, must bridge the conceptual gap between intelligence and perception.Arnheim (1969)explicates a notion of visual cognition that adds to, while remainingcompatible with, Piaget’s structuralist view. Arnheim develops the concept ofperception as an intelligent act, comprising such operations as activeexplorations, election, grasping of essentials, simplification, abstraction,analysis, synthesis, completion, and correction. The unit for model-buildingpurposes of visual intelligence is the Gestalt. The gestalt is the principle oforganization that searches out reality and creates meaningful form, and itselfbecomes differentiated through the inter-action.
Researchers of amore rigorous bent have approached the problem of visual cognition by extendingtheir experience with verbal language to create the metaphor of visualliteracy. They have then sought out a visual alphabet, visual grammar, andvisual syntax and conceptualized the cognitive response in relation to thisessentially verbal metaphor. For Arnheim,visual understanding begins with active visual perception and concludes withmeanings that are internally represented in visual form. Neisser (1976)highlights the cognitive time period necessary for schema to develop inresponse to a perceptual situation, that is, the time it takes for a viewer toexplore and focus upon a painting or sculpture.The question ishow this fixed time span affects the cognitive time period in which the viewerassimilates and accommodates the object of attention.
These are centralquestions that a full psychology of the film will want to address. Arnheim’sand Neisser’s model of visual cognition emerges as a promising foundation forthe study of film and cognition. Thus, the study proceeded in the direction ofhaving a better view about the matter.184.108.40.206 StatesThe film viewingexperience has been described as being like a dream state. Langer (1966) givesconcise statement of the idea of film as dream.
As in a dream, she observes,the film presents an ongoing series of images and events, with the vieweralways at the center of those events. These images seem as though they are theviewer’s creation. Furthermore, as in a dream, boundaries of space and time arenot observed: series of situations are related by feeling, not by naturalproximity. Television differs cognitively from film mainly because the lack ofperipheral visual experience and image quality cannot induce the dream state sofully.Mast (1977) hasput forth a theory of film experience that shares Petric’s image of a passiveviewer overtaken by illusion. For Mast, the film is an especially convincingillusion of reality because of its dual powers of mimesis (photographicrepresentation) and kinesis (movement over time).
Metz (1977) adds acautionary note, however. He poses the question of whether film viewing is likedreaming and concludes that it is not, for at least three reasons: theperception of film is real perception, not an internal psychic event; films aremore structured than dreams; and they are not as absurd. Film, Metz concludes,is more like a daydream.
3 KnowledgeThe visual arts ingeneral, and film in particular, possess the capacity to initiate anepistemological cycle, a cycle that begins with a symbolic presentation andends with the viewer’s cognition. The knowledge that is somehow embodied in thepresentation, and that is somehow understood through cognition, is the commonfactor throughout this cycle. The non-discursive symbols of the visual artspresent to the viewer a wider range of meaning than language can convey.Film shares thecapacity of the arts in general to present affectively compelling presentationsof world views. Film also possesses unique representational capacities thatenable it to present additional aspects of the artist’s world view. Thetemporal and sequential nature of film allows it to organize images in a patternthat simulates the pattern of the artist’s perception and thought.For Ingarden(1973), the reader functions with the work as a co-creator of meaning. The worksuggests mental images, which the reader must objectify.
The work suppliespotential meanings that are concretized by the reader’s formation of anaesthetic object.Thephenomenological model of reading, and especially its treatment of temporalconcerns, is also applicable to film. How synthetic images are formed inresponse to a series of discrete sequential presentations, over time, is anissue common to both film and the novel.
With this concern for temporalsequence comes a range of problems in the development of cognitive schema,including the interactive effects of past and future, the formation of wholesfrom parts, and the establishing of foreground and background.Human beings arecontinually constructing internal meanings at the same time that we areabsorbed in retinal reality. Viewers cannot absorb cinematic images any morethan they can absorb reality. Instead they undertake a perceptual dialogue,seeing in part what their schemas encourage them to seek out, and in part whatthe artist’s shaping of cinematic form encourages them to see. With film,viewers spend less time with any single image but an equivalent amount ofcognitive time with the work as a whole.Film historypresents numerous cases that support the view of cognition put forth here.
D.W. Griffith, by breaking scenes down to close-ups and long-shots and byalternating times and places, demonstrated the possibility of conveying asituation and its meaning through a segmented presentation. Eisenstein andPudovkin each formalized theories of how montage conveys the artist’s intendedmeaning to the viewer, and conducted experiments to demonstrate that completelydifferent meanings are conveyed by arranging the same group of shots inalternate ways.
If the film makerinvolves the viewer in a stereotyped, superficial, or destructive view ofreality, then schema may be gained, but no broadening of understanding canoccur as a result. This is the situation that exists with most commercialtelevision and many feature films.